The aim of project RegoLight is to further develop existing 3D printing technologies and methodologies for the purpose of ‘sintering’ and ‘shaping’ lunar regolith (loose layer of dust, soil and broken rocks on the Moon surface) using the sun as an infinite source of energy; for the purpose of fabricating buildings elements for use in future lunar missions.
Solar sintering of regolith is currently at Technology Readiness Level 3 (TRL3) and demonstrates the ability to build a ‘brick’ composed of sintered regolith; manufactured in a laboratory set-up comprised of a mechanical table able to move the raw material (regolith) in the x, y and z axis. The regolith set in action, is then sintered, taking shape layer by layer as it passes through a concentrated solar beam, powered by a solar furnace.
The project objective of RegoLight is to develop a regolith solar sintering device breadboard which will be validated in a relevant environment, advancing the current Technology Readiness Level to 5 (TRL5). Components of the RegoLight design will be printed in a thermal vacuum chamber and will undergo mechanical properties tests, building a database and FEM analyses for concept validation.
The RegoLight team comprised of architects, engineers, systems designers, and scientists seeks to approach the problem of solar sintering on the lunar surface, simultaneously from both sides of the spectrum; addressing on one end the ‘big picture’ based on mission scenario design and applications seen from the larger perspective of mission plans and exploration strategies; and on the other end, the ‘bottom up’ approach which builds small-scale ‘detailed’ building components with respect to the physical properties of the granular regolith dust and the additive manufacturing methodology.
With a concurrent engineering approach, sample structures will be manufactured having been derived from both; ‘big picture’ scenarios and ‘bottom up’ detailed development at the level of physical and chemical composition of lunar regolith.
Both parts, the ‘detailed’ and ‘big picture’ tasks, will be informed by the Structural Analysis and FEM as activities which mediate between the ‘detailed’ picture and the overall context (‘big picture’). This methodology presents a holistic approach developed from two different perspectives starting from two different scales converging to the final RegoLight printed element.
RegoLight is a 2-year project under the European Union‘s Horizon 2020 Programme, within the topic of COMPET-03-2015. The project started November 2015 and will conclude November 2017.